Americans have 9/11, Filipinos have 11/8


I had to cross-examine the proposition twice before deciding to make it the subject of my final column for the year—as a way of saying goodbye to 2013 and saying hello to 2014.

The conflating of the two tragic events and the inversion of numbers looked intriguing but a bit superficial. I was troubled by the thought that this may prove again to some that we are America’s boy in Asia. A kindergarten version of America.

Yet the proposition is spot-on and valid. The events did happen, each with devastating results. And the dates are immutable and will be remembered in history by posterity (the people who will exist in the future).

To be precise, our American friends remember and mourn the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City on September 11, 2001. That day changed the way they looked at the world and the way the world looked at them.

The world gathered to join America in mourning
In a vivid show of sympathy, the French brought flowers to the US embassy in Paris. The influential Le Monde ran this big headline: “We are all Americans now.” All in sharp contrast to the time when France under Charles de Gaulle pointedly bickered with the US.

Soon the US would unleash its war on terrorism and ignite two wars in the Middle East, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

In an analogous way, Filipinos from here on have Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan as a marker and a milestone. From the day the perfect storm struck land in Samar and Leyte on November 8, 2013, life dramatically changed for us, not just for East Visayans but all Filipinos. Henceforth we will reckon our national life and our position in the world in light of how we responded to the challenge of this greatest typhoon/cyclone in history.

We shouldn’t argue for Haiyan to be declared the greatest, let others claim the title. The more the disaster is enlarged the more it will magnify the shortcomings of our government and our leaders in coping with the catastrophe.

But it is also right to give Haiyan its true measure by the yardstick of science and cold facts, because only then can we pay proper tribute to the dead and the survivors, and to the millions who responded generously to the nation’s agony and grief

Before 11/8, I was a skeptic on climate change. Now, I’m a cautious believer, gobbling up every new report on global warming and climate change.

We have no idea yet whether 11/8 was the biggest illustration of climate change in the Asia-Pacific, or is only the first dramatic demonstration.

From hereon, we will be wondering whenever a storm comes calling.

Before 11/8, I thought East Visayas was a beautiful primeval place.

After11/8, it became a wasteland of destruction, but as in previous storms the verdure will surely return.

Before 11/8, we all thought that President Aquino was reasonably competent and caring, as repeatedly advertised by SWS and Pulse Asia. After 11/8, we now know that he does not have any aptitude for governance and he lacks a heart.

A chilling and alarming report
It’s now 54 days since Yolanda made its landfall on the archipelago.

Casualties have now reached 6,111 according to the latest bulletin from the disaster council. Few care to cite anymore Aquino’s wishful ceiling on casualties (2500).

There was a chilling and alarming report from Agence France Presse filed on December 28, that upends all the feel-good stories about resilience and recovery that we have been telling each other to lift our spirits. AFP reported that there are 1,400 bodies in sealed body bags that are rotting in barangay San Isidro on the outskirts of Tacloban, and they still cannot be buried in a common grave, because they await identification. Sadly, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which was doing the ID processing has pulled out for the holidays. So the process has stopped. Meanwhile the anonymous dead are totally at the mercy of the elements. And the survivors are oppressed by the stench of death, terrified that they could fall victim to disease.

Even the politicians who usually profit from denouncing such abominations are missing. Only the media are crying foul.

Paradoxically, one death, like say that of former Local government Secretary Jesse Robredo, could send the nation and our government into an elaborate paroxysm of grief for over a week, complete with a eulogy from the president.

Before the stark reality of thousands of dead, most are numbed and reduced to silence, our government along with them.

Just days after the world and the United Nations magnificently came to our aid in our time of agony and grief, we are flunking yet again the most elementary tests of governance and civil defense.

11/8 is a grim reminder that nations do not choose a president for the good times. The good times can take care of themselves. ”We elect a president for troubled times,” says the writer Ellen Goodman. “We pick the man who will be waked up in the middle of the night with decisions to make.”

Sadly, we don’t have that kind of president today. He is busy. He’s having a coughing fit. Bahala na tayo sa ating sarili. We are on our own.

Tonight, we will welcome the new year, and 11/8 will become something that happened last year.

Constructive praise
Breakfast and journalism—At the newspaper stand in Quezon City (corner of Scout Borromeo and Quezon Avenue) where we get our copies of the morning dailies, I’ve stumbled on an interesting bit of news.

The independent press (the Times, Standard, and Tribune) are all selling very well, so well that if you don’t show up on time you won’t get your copies. But the yellow media (Inquirer and Star) are not sitting still. They have countered with a gustatory promo. If you take your breakfast at McDonald’s, you get a free copy of Inquirer. The Star for its part has partnered with the nearby Jollibee’s; if you breakfast at Jollibee’s you get Star for free.

The independent dailies are not in a position to counter with free breakfast giveaways like free tapsilog and goto, which would really be a treat. They need the proceeds from every copy sold. Their daily reports and columns are nutritious enough.

This development won’t change my daily routine. Breakfast is free at home.


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  1. And what about the impending BLUNDER that is the MILF “peace agreement”…

    Before anyone agrees or favors this agreement, I ask the person, what do you REALLY know about Islam…? have you at least read The Life of Muhammad, The Holy Quran, or the Hadiths, to understand why this agreement WILL NEVER ATTAIN for us peace,,,? Please do so, you are in for a shock…

    Sadly, even Muslims themselves do not even get to read their holy scriptures, because they are in Arabic…but the translations are good enough to get a clear understanding…

    Islam is really a POLITICAL IDEOLOGY that aims to DOMINATE and SUBJUGATE amyone and everyone, until the whole world is Islamic, that’s why!

    That explains the non-stop violence everywhere Islam goes…just see all the “youtube” videos of the ongoing Islamization of European countries, who let the Muslim immigrants and refugees 20 years ago, and are now regretting it….!

    Better to give them an INDEPENDENT territory than a SUBSTATE within ours…

  2. I notice in the article that you mention 9/11 in the first paragraph and then not again, which tells me that there is very little in common with 11/8. There mere fact that you have to allude to something that happens in the daddy country, however arbitrary, will always get readers. why not compare it to other natural disasters such as japan or indonesian tsunamis..closer to home, closer in time and much more comparable?? but have to go to the good old Us of A for your analysis. This only proves to me that just like TV coverage of sport, entertainment, politics and economics, the Philippines in your opinion is just located off the coast of california, not half way round the world. Did you know that London is closer to Manila than Los Angeles?

  3. Awesome piece of writing. The true face of Abnoy and his yellow cabal has finally been exposed to the world. I am proud to be a Filipino despite this president. And consoled by the fact that international leaders can see what we always knew about this retard.

  4. Seen on a hindsight, there was a purpose after all for Yolanda. It was truly providential to expose and unmask the cunning , the deceitful posturing,the corruption, the heartlessness and incompetence of the temporary occupant of Malacanang. God does hear the prayer of the oppressed and the downtrodden.

  5. Jun P. Delgado on

    a nice one Mr. Yen Makabenta; eager to have more like this piece… maiba man lang as opposed to that covertly yellowish guy who seems to have a mellow-touch (fond of rubbing, that’s why….)

  6. ‘…we are flunking yet again the most elementary tests of governance and civil defines…’ Nay, we are flunking the most elementary tests of respect and decency. What we do with our dearly departed speak to our basic humanity for they, regardless of what the Good Book says, cannot bury themselves.